Tips on accepting the “Skin you’re in”

Just logging on to social media (Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, the list goes on…) and you’ll be enamored with the cultural beauty standards. Unrealistic expectations fill our screens and it makes sense why over 80% of women are not satisfied with their appearance. 

What usually happens next is thoughts of self-doubt, the need to lose weight, get this or that fixed, and a general sense of not feeling “good” enough.  It’s no wonder that by the time teenagers reach 13, over half of them are not happy with their body, want lose weight, or have already been on a diet.

How do we learn to love our bodies when our culture makes it nearly impossible? Here are some ways we can learn to love and appreciate our bodies.

1. Reject diet culture

Diet culture feeds off women’s insecurity, so letting go of unrealistic beauty standards opens up the door to nurturing and loving your body. When you feel bad about yourself, you are more likely to buy products encouraged by diet culture, which is what they are designed to do, especially by social media.

Christy Harrison, MHP, RD, CDN explains that diet culture is a system of beliefs that:

  • Worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
  • Promotes weight loss as a means of attaining higher status, which means you feel compelled to spend a massive amount of time, energy, and money trying to shrink your body, even though the research is very clear that almost no one can sustain intentional weight loss for more than a few years.
  • Demonizes certain ways of eating while elevating others, which means you’re forced to be hyper-vigilant about your eating, ashamed of making certain food choices, and distracted from your pleasure, your purpose, and your power.
  • Oppresses people who don’t match up with its supposed picture of “health,” which disproportionately harms women, femmes, trans folks, people in larger bodies, people of color, and people with disabilities, damaging both their mental and physical health. 

2. Talk to a professional

Body acceptance is a tough journey, especially when you’ve been hating and criticizing yourself for so long. Speaking with a professional (therapist and/or dietician) would be helpful in challenging old patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns.  It can seem like an uphill battle to accept our bodies when we live in a culture that doesn’t support this way of life.

To love your body, you should start by forgiving it for not being perfect. This involves letting go of the days filled with calorie counting, keeping those “skinny” jeans that we one day want to fit back into, and good food versus bad good mentality. Most people need a team of support during this journey, and there are plenty of professionals equipped to handle the task.  Inquire about modality and approach to their practice. Some “buzzwords” to listen for are HAES (Health at Every Size) Intuitive eating, body trust, and body positivity.

3. Increase Awareness

You will need to “rewrire” your brain and begin to intentionally look for body-positive role models in the media.  Unfollow those who reinforce the diet culture mentality (Kardashian’s anyone?). Bad body image days are going to happen because these thought patterns are engrained in many of us. It’s all about what action to take when these thoughts come up. Actions gearing towards kindness and self-care will help increase body acceptance.

To all the girls that think you’re fat because you’re not a size zero, you’re the beautiful one, it’s society who’s ugly.” 

-Marilyn Monroe

4. Some resources for increasing our ability for body acceptance

Books:

  • Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
  • Body Trust by Linda Bacon
  • The Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash PhD
  • The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor

Social media influencers (follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

  • Jameela Jamil
  • Taryn Brumfitt
  • Demi Lovato
  • Ashley Graham
  • Rini Frey (ownitbabe)

Documentaries:

  • Embrace
  • Fattitude
  • Miss Representation
  • The Illusionists

If you need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to ask. Counselors and therapists are ready to be your support and guide.

 

Shannon Meyer, MA, LMHC, CMHS

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